Understanding California Dog Bite Laws

February 24, 2022
On behalf of The Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg Posted in Dog Bite

If you have been attacked by a dog in the state of California, understanding the Golden State’s dog bite laws is important. Because California is a so-called “strict liability” state, pet owners are generally held responsible for the injuries their dogs cause others, including those caused by dog bite attacks or certain knockdown injuries sustained when a dog forcibly knocks a person to the ground or causes them to fall. 

In California, whether or not the dog in question had been aggressive in the past is not relevant. However, the policy of strict liability has certain distinct requirements for victims who wish to recover damages from the dog’s owner. The dog bite victim must show that they were bitten by the animal and that the bite occurred in a public place or in a private place—including the property belonging to the dog owner, provided that the victim was there lawfully and not as a trespasser. Notably, people who are on a property for a lawful duty such as to deliver mail or to drop off a grocery order are considered lawfully present on the property. 

What Constitutes a Bite?

Under the dog bite laws of the state of California, a bite occurs when a dog grabs a person with its teeth, breaking the skin. However, bites do not always have to break the skin to be classified as injurious under California law. For example, if a dog grabs the clothing of someone hired to fix the dog owner’s roof, causing that person to fall to the ground from a ladder, then the dog caused the injury. 

Negligent, Careless Owners

The strict liability statute in California does not cover all instances of injuries caused by dogs. For instance, if a dog chases a motorcycle and causes the motorcyclist to wreck, then the victim is not protected by the state’s dog bite laws. However, if the victim is able to prove that the dog’s owner was negligent and that the injuries they sustained were a result of that negligence, then they may be able to recover compensation. As an example, a dog knocks a woman down on the sidewalk, scratching her eye in the process. If it can be shown that the dog’s owner was careless and did not take reasonable measures to control the dog by leashing it or keeping it behind a fence, then the victim may be able to collect damages. 

Dangerous Dog Laws

The strict liability statute in California is applicable without regard to the offending dog’s history. However, when a dog has proven its dangerous tendencies by biting someone in the past, the onus is on the dog owner to remove any potential for future attacks by taking reasonable steps to protect others from the dog. When a dog bites two times, a civil case can be brought against the dog owner, which may result in the dog being removed from the home or even put to sleep. 

Are You a Dog Bite Victim?

Being bitten by or otherwise injured by a dog can be a frightening experience, leaving the victim with lifelong injuries, scars, and emotional trauma. Reach out to the Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg and our dog attack attorney for help. You can contact us for a free consultation of your case or call 310-997-0904.


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